FEMALE INCONTINENCE: IT’S TIME TO TALK!
Constantly needing to go to the toilet, or being unable to stop yourself can be embarrassing and interfere with your work, exercise and personal life. You don’t need to let the feelings of worry around this build up and stop you doing things. Female urinary incontinence is very common and with the help of your private doctor, you can find some simple solutions to your problem.
Both men and women can experience symptoms of urinary incontinence. However, women are more likely to suffer from such urinary problems, due to the effects of pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Causes of male urinary incontinence may be due to enlarged prostate.
Diagnosing urinary incontinence
Firstly, if you think you may have a problem with your bladder it is a good idea to try clearly establish which kind of symptoms you have: acute or chronic.
If you have new, acute symptoms such as fever, stinging/ pain when you pass urine or new back pain, then you may have a UTI (urinary tract infection) and should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Conversely, if your problems have been bothering you for a while, some common longer-term, chronic bladder symptoms might include:
- Urge symptoms - wanting to empty your bladder more than normal, this may include having to get up multiple times a night, known as nocturia!
- Decreased urine volume - only being able to release a small amount of urine each time you go to the toilet
- Leaking urine - noticing that you may be wetting yourself when you cough or sneeze or without any warning.
Overactive bladder syndrome
If you have increased urge and decreased volume you may have a condition known as “overactive bladder syndrome” (OAB syndrome). You may feel you need to go to the toilet many more times than those around you and with a desperation that you can’t ignore!
This condition is where the muscle of your bladder contracts more often, meaning that it often feels full when it isn’t and that there is very little warning that you need to go to the toilet.
Overactive bladder syndrome is characterised by the sensation of need to pee more often, and more urgently than normal
Treating overactive bladder syndrome
The first stage of treating overactive bladder syndrome is trying to avoid things that irritate the inside of the bladder.
Overactive bladder triggers may include:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fizzy drinks
It might be a good idea to keep a diary of what you drink each day and when you have your symptoms that you can take to the doctor to help them decide what the problem might be.
If you do have overactive bladder syndrome, as well as lifestyle advice and helping with the other social issues this can cause, your GP may be able to recommend a specialist referral or a course of “bladder retraining”. They will be able to help you decide what’s best for your situation and your bladder! Medication may also be an option for you.
If you sometimes accidentally leak urine in small volumes, and this is often when you laugh, sneeze or move in a certain way you may have stress incontinence.
This means that your pelvic floor muscles surrounding your urethra - the tube from the bladder to the outside world - are not strong enough to stop urine leakage when you strain, eg cough or sneeze.
Stress incontinence is where urine leakage happens as a result of increased pressure being put on the bladder, such as when coughing, sneezing or laughing
Treating stress incontinence
Things that may help improve your symptoms might be:
- Trying to loose any excess weight you may be carrying.
- This will put excessive strain on the bladder and the muscles around it.
- Doing regular exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor can also help.
- This needs to be done several times a day for a couple of months for you to notice any improvement.
Stronger pelvic floor muscles may stop this problem all together! If these solutions don’t work, or if the problem is getting much worse your doctor may refer you to a Urology specialist for another opinion and advice about which specialist treatment or even female urinary incontinence surgery.
Stress and urge incontinence
You can also get a mixed picture - if you identify with both stress and urge incontinence you may have a mixture of symptoms. In this case, strengthening your pelvic floor can help improve your symptoms but you may also benefit from bladder retraining and urinary incontinence medication to help relax the bladder.
Overall, it’s important to remember that there’s lots you can do to help with incontinence and it doesn’t have to affect the things you do or how you feel about yourself. Ask for some help and you can start to get things back to normal today with same day doctor appointments at all 8 London clinics of LDC including our newest Canary Wharf Clinic!
By Ruth Laurence-King